‘It means the world to them,’ Assisted living facilities rejoice as COVID restrictions are lifted

COMO, Miss. — In another sign we are getting back to normal a year and a half into the pandemic, the federal government has ordered all nursing homes to lift COVID restrictions.

That means a return to visits from family and friends. FOX13 spoke to the manager of one local assisted living community about how much these visits mean. According to her, it means everything.

Coronavirus: US government directs nursing homes to lift pandemic restrictions

Back in August of 2020, Providence Assisted Living in Senatobia held a hugging booth. Plastic sheeting protected residents against COVID, giving them a chance to hug loved ones again.

Robert Fullwood of Como, MS hugged his grandmother for the first time in eight months. He spoke to FOX13 back then about what it meant.

“Love, Just love,” Fullwood said back then.

Lynette Beard, Director of Providence Assisted Living, said the best thing the government could have done was to ease restrictions on visits.

”It means the world to them, that human touch, the familiarity that somebody who has. With those people being grounded, with family members that they are familiar with, it does so much emotionally and mentally for them to live,” Beard said.

RELATED: Nursing home installs hugging booth so visitors can hold their loved ones

Beard has been working in long-term care facilities for 30 years. She described how much these visits mean.

”Oh, gosh. Their whole demeanor changes. When they see their great-grandkids come in here, it is a change in their personality. It grounds them and makes them feel like they are truly a part of something,” Beard said.

The new guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told nursing homes that facilities should no longer limit the frequency or length of visits.

”For someone with dementia, if you take away the norm for them which is visiting their family members every day, then they see them they decline rather rapidly.” Beard said.

The centers for Medicare and Medicaid cites vaccinations as the key to this change with 86 percent of nursing home residents fully vaccinated and 74 percent of staff fully vaccinated.